Selina moved from the UK to Norway on a university exchange programme and stayed to teach at an international school in Bergen. She's loving just about everything in her new hometown. Read her advice on where to live, and about her experience of the great healthcare and good public transport.
Read about her experiences on her blog, Wolf and the Fox.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Leicester, UK
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Bergen, Norway
Q: How long have you lived here?
A: Just over two years.
Q: Did you move with a spouse/children?
A: No, I was single when I moved.
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: I moved here as part of the Erasmus exchange programme to study at the University of Bergen.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your host city, how’s the quality of life in Bergen?
A: I love almost everything about my new city, especially being able to live so close to the centre of town and yet still be so close to nature. Being able to wake up and see mountains from your window is truly one of life's blessings. The quality of life is fantastic here; wages are high and the general mentality when it comes to work is that we work to live and not live to work, so people really utilise their free time in order to do the things they enjoy!
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: The price of living is high which can be a shock to get used to at first. And it rains a LOT! When it comes to the UK, I really only miss my family and friends there. Bergen definitely feels like home now!
Q: Is Bergen safe? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: Bergen is incredibly safe and the rate of crime is very low. There are no specific areas to avoid. Like in most cities, you just need to be aware of your surrounding areas, and if you find a place that you don’t feel safe then leave as soon as you can and get to somewhere you trust and feel safer in.
Q: How would you rate the public transport in Bergen? What are the different options? Do you need to own a car?
The public transport is pretty good. There are busses, and a tram system called the bybanen which takes you from the city centre out to a suburb called Nesstun. It is currently expanding out to a mall called Lagunen and then on to the airport. Many people get along fine without cars and it really just depends on where you end up living. If you live further out then the busses tend to be fewer and far between and in that case a car becomes a lot more essential.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Bergen?
A: The healthcare is fantastic here. I have unfortunately had to see doctors and dentists in emergency situations, including at times when money was tight, but I never had any problems. The work was excellent, as was the standard of care. They spoke good English and the rates were very low.
About living in Bergen
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in the city as an expat?
A: I don’t think there are areas that are better than others to live as an expat. It really depends on the job you do and how close you want to be to the centre of town. Popular places are Sandviken, Nordnes and the centre of town.
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing Bergen?
A: I don’t have the greatest wealth of knowledge as I have only lived in student accommodation (which was OK) and with my partner's parents (which was fantastic). A lot of the older houses are beautiful traditional wooden buildings with multiple floors, but there are also a lot of apartments ranging in size and price.
Q: What’s the cost of living in Bergen compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: It is much more expensive here compared to the UK, but then wages are much higher so I would say that it evens out.
Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: The locals I have met are lovely - very friendly and open to meeting new people. The general feeling about Norwegians is that they are quite standoffish and cold, but in my experience that is normally just down to a certain amount of shyness and lack of confidence in spoken English. Usually if you spark up a conversation with them they thaw out a lot and by the end of the evening they will probably be your new best friend. I work at an international school so I mix with a great deal of expats but my partner is a local so I also mix with many of his friends.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A: I was lucky and came as part of an exchange programme, so was able to take part in many of the university activities which allowed me to meet new people. I think if I had come here alone it would be harder. My advice to people moving to Bergen to look up the Facebook group Bergen Underwater Basket Weaving Superhero Social club (BUBWESS) as that is a great place to meet a lovely bunch of expats who are very positive and friendly.
About working in Norway
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?
A: I had no problems luckily but I know many who have, so I think it depends on where you are from.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in Bergen; is there plenty of work?
A: As far as I know it is pretty good and there is plenty of work. But you do generally need to speak at least basic Norwegian to get a job.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: It is a lot more about using your job to earn money to enjoy life rather than having a job which takes over your life. People here work to live, and don’t live to work.
Family and children in Norway
Q: What are the schools like, any particular suggestions?
A: I work for an international school (International School of Bergen) which is a great place to send your kids, especially if you are not planning to be in Norway for the long haul. Other than that the school system in my opinion is fantastic. All schools are generally equal when it comes to quality, so any school you choose will probably be great.
Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: There will be times when you absolutely hate the place you are living in, but the best thing to do is allow yourself that short period of “Gaaah!” and then go outside, breath in the fantastic experience of being somewhere new, and enjoy yourself! Dwelling on the things you don’t like will not make you happier. Instead find something to distract yourself and I’m sure in no time you will be telling all your friends back home how much you love your new city!
~ Interviewed September 2012